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Economy Front and Center at Davos World Economic Forum

The Global Financial Crisis will take center stage at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.  More than 2,500 participants from 96 countries will convene in this small Alpine village from January 28 to February 1 to search for ways to stabilize and re-launch the global economy. 

As in previous years, some of the world's most powerful political and business leaders will brush shoulders in Davos and discuss weighty matters.  But, the glitter and glamour that have characterized previous meetings will be gone this year.

Celebrities will not attend forum

To reflect the sober atmosphere of a world in crisis, no "show business" celebrities will be coming.  The World Economic Forum's Head of Programming, Lee Howell, says even the perennial favorite, Bono of the popular rock group U2, will not be making his annual pilgrimage.

"And, on Bono, just to tell you, he does actually have a day job," said Howell. "And, he has told us that he is finishing his album, so he will not be coming." 

But, many other important personalities will be there.  This year a record 41 heads of states and governments will be coming, including Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, and the Prime Minister of Kenya, Raila Odinga.

Forum founder says this is most crucial gathering

To emphasize the economic focus, 60 percent of Forum participants are business leaders.  Founder and Chairman of the Forum, Klaus Schwab, calls this one of the most crucial gatherings in the organization's 39 year history.  He says the global financial crisis is unprecedented in scope and should be seen as a wake-up call that changes need to be made to global institutions, systems and ways of thinking.

"A system's crisis means also, that it is a transformational crisis," said Schwab. "We cannot just use the normal remedies to come out.   We have to change or adapt the system.  And, finally, I would say it is a confidence crisis.  I would say, we never will move out of the crisis if we do not re-establish confidence, which means we have to establish signposts for the future."  

Gathering plans to discuss global warming

But, the Forum will be dealing with other topics as well.  Organizers note there are dozens of global risks that threaten the prosperity and well being of people and must be addressed.  One of the most serious, they say, is that of global warming.

Forum Managing Director, Richard Samans, says private and public sector participants will discuss ways to put together a long-term policy to stabilize carbon emissions and make the post-Kyoto framework more achievable.

"In particular, we will be focusing on the investment environment and technology environment for low carbon energy investment in developing countries," said Richard Samans. "This is an absolutely crucial part of the success of the negotiations because one needs to get an entirely global engagement in the new framework that includes emerging market countries as well as developed countries." 

A number of heavyweights from the new Obama administration will be coming to Davos.  Among those will be Director of the National Economic Council, Lawrence Summers and U.S. National Security Adviser-designate, James Jones, Jr. 

There also will be a large sprinkling of U.S. Congressional Representatives and annual Forum political favorite, former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

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